Children of a failing generation take on catastrophic challenges in a hellish summer vacation.
Millet’s clean and flawless prose is replenishing, along with the revised sensibility and wit of her narrator. It’s the kind of book you’re really glad to read, even as the story spirals from a warm and carefree holiday to a grim, inevitable reckoning. We start with a collection of children in various stages of mocking and disengaging from their parents. A slow and inevitable disaster approaches, bringing ruin ruin on everyone – us (the children) and them (the parents). Another big story turn that accelerates the separation, a period of bliss followed by an even bigger disaster, man-made.
This is a dark novel laced generously with light moments and the good guys doing wonderful and endearing things. It’s not a particularly easy read for a baby boomer. The distribution of virtue is not even close to evenly split between the two generations.
Three things I liked:
- Captivating tone and prose style. Millet knows how to tell a story with just enough detail and reflection to keep the pages turning. This could be read in one day.
- The theme and subtext emerge gradually and naturally from the characters and their story. It comes as no surprise on p140 (about 2/3rds of the way through) when she says: “What people wanted to be, but never could, travelled along beside them.”
- It’s just plain fun to have a cast of children showing such disdain for their parents.
Three things that gave me pause:
- Not sure about the explicit diagramming of one character’s interpretation of the Bible (p142). Not because it doesn’t make sense, but because it feels too much like the author (not the narrator) using the story to make a point. The resolving twist is the ultimate deux ex machina move for a novelist, but it works.
- One spot where the fancy writing left me scratching my head: “Coastal flood warnings and severe flood warnings – it seemed like a word salad in a clean red font.” (p73)
- The cover/print job. It’s a cool cover but the dust jacket sure seems to be miscut by the printer (the top of “A” is cropped off). And the title on the hardcover spine isn’t aligned right vertically. If there’s a message in these graphics, I missed it. Seems a little sloppy for a featured book by a well-known author from one of the big NYC publishing houses.